The title of Hailey Wojcik‘s single “XO Skeleton” presents an excellent opportunity to examine the artist as a whole. It’s cute yet creepy, with a wink of charm that rightly earned her the description “the Wednesday Addams of her genre,” a characterization I wish I had come up with myself. Currently on tour with the Shondes, On March 3rd Hailey releases her upcoming EP Book of Beasts. The singer-songwriter described the five-track work as a “feminist album,” an empowering step in her career. She recorded the EP after a traumatic break-up, fleeing the country, then reclaiming her voice with the help of one of her best friends, fellow singer-songwriter Julie Peel. The result is a bold yet intimate look into a enchantingly wild mind. Hailey describes crushing a moth into powder in “XO Skeleton,” which has a clever music video chock-full of insects to accompany. As for all the animal references, after all, Hailey was raised by zookeepers.
Of all her musical skills, her song-writing talents shine the brightest on Book of Beasts. Her songs draw on raw experience, and always come across original and darkly amusing, like smoking a lover to the filter in “Cigarette.”
I caught up with Hailey on the road to talk about growing up with zookeepers, inspirational friendship, and thrift store clothing.
AF: Do you enjoy life on the road?
HW: Yeah, well this will be the longest tour I’ve ever done so I guess we’ll see. But I really do like being on the road and traveling. It’s good to be moving. It’s just nice to have a change of scenery.
AF: Any cities in particular you’re looking forward to visiting?
HW: I’m glad we’re going to several warm places. I have never been to the Pacific Northwest, and we’re going to Seattle and Portland and I’m very excited to see those places. Portlandia.
AF: What is the inspiration behind the songs that are coming out?
HW: The record is called Book of Beasts. I feel like I always, not intentionally, but have some kind of animal theme. My parents were zookeepers, and we’ve always had a lot of animals around. They’re mostly about, well some of them do deal with animals like “XO Skeleton” and “Dog Vs. Man,” so I guess I should say that it does inform the content. I’m a singer-songwriter who writes about my own life. Some people sort of look down upon “confessional songwriting” but that’s pretty much what I do. It’s mostly based on my life and experience, and I recorded it myself. This is the first time that I’ve done that, that I’ve engineered everything, and I played everything except for the drums, which were played wonderfully by Brian Viglione of The Dresden Dolls. He’s obviously a genius, and I’m super happy to have a drummer on this. But yeah, everything else was me.
It was recorded in the wake of a traumatic breakup. I had fled the country sort of impulsively, and was in France to see one of my best friends, Julie Peel who is also a singer-songwriter. She has a studio set up in her room, it kind of felt like an empowering thing for me. And really like a record that’s about self-reliance and female friendship. She was the one who encouraged me and told me I could do it. I had gone a year without playing a show. I hadn’t recorded, I hadn’t done anything, I was really depressed. She was like, ‘You can just figure out how to use logic, and you can do this in your bedroom.’ I’ve never made something without a bunch of dudes, not that they were trying…I’ve just never been navigating the entire thing. That was really important to me. It feels like a feminist record in that sense.
AF: What was it like growing up with zookeepers for parents and how did you discover music as a child?
HW: Until I was in about fourth grade my parents were both zookeepers, and I would go to the zoo like pretty much every weekend. Then after that my dad continued to work with animals in another educational program where he would take animals around. We had monkeys sometime in the house, we had a beaver, dogs, birds, snakes, all over the place. I started writing…I still kind of consider myself more of a songwriter. That’s the thing I identify the most with. So I started trying to write songs when I was in like 7th grade or something like that. I moved to New York to kind of pursue music a few years ago. I’m not there now, I would like to go back at some point but I’m trying to just be on the road as much as possible.
AF: There’s been a lot of commentary on the darkness in your music.
HW: I really identify with dark subject matters mixed with humor. Dark humor, I guess. I think that kind of shows in some of my stuff, like the video I made for the song “XO Skeleton.” I had insects that a lot of people are grossed out by moving around in a cute sort of way. Like jittery stop motion. I like to do stuff like that, I’ll have fake blood incorporated into videos and photo shoots as much as possible. The biggest compliment in the press I got is that was called ‘The Wednesday Addams’ of my genre. I identify with my inner-goth girl. She’s still there even though I don’t always look it on the outside.
AF: How would you describe your personal look?
HW: I do like things that are dark I guess. A dark wardrobe. Right now it’s so crappy because it’s so cold out; I feel like it’s the worst time of year for clothing. But yeah, I think I kind of have a little bit of a darkness. I like a lot of black clothes, and I obviously, well, music’s not particularly lucrative so a lot of my stuff is second hand.
AF: If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
HW: So many people, but I love, I feel like everybody loves this person but I love John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats. Doing anything with him would be a dream. But I also love St. Vincent.
AF: Where would you see yourself if you weren’t working in music?
HW: Living under a bridge? That’s like the quarter-life crisis question, because music is not totally secure I guess. I would like to think I would be involved in writing in some capacity. I went to school for creative writing and that’s sort of have thought about trying to get things published. Short stories, non-fiction. I feel like I would be doing something writing related.